Profile: How Katia Learned Islamic Finance
I lived and worked in Dubai for seven years in my mid-30s and early 40s. I was working in Financial Services under both regulators — the UAE Central Bank and the Dubai Financial Services Authority. During these years, I was regularly exposed to Islamic Banking & Financing products — Islamic product launches in the retail space were frequent, public marketing campaigns were prolific, technical articles in print media and television common, with friends and colleagues discussing exciting opportunities in upcoming Sukuks.
My curiosity was always stirred, and though I would observe, read and digest the information on Islamic Finance & Banking, my understanding was limited. I fully recognized the importance of Shariah law and, by extension, Shariah-approved finance and banking. But the larger religious context, the structure and aims of Shariah-compliant products, and the deeper ethical core that underpinned this form of banking completely eluded me.
I made a commitment to myself to explore Islamic Finance & Banking more formally. It was an intellectual itch that I had to scratch. As is my wont, I researched all global online courses in the field of Islamic Finance & Banking, from London to Kuala Lumpur to the Gulf. There was no dearth of courses, most from seemingly well-established training and education institutions.
But one institution caught my discerning eye — Ethica Institute of Islamic Finance. Maybe it was the name — the word “ethic” that immediately resonated with me and stopped me in my tracks. I recall finding it quite bold — quite a clear statement of the institution’s stance.
Furthermore, it was a Dubai-based training institution — this said to me that this institution was in the thick of things, bang in the middle of a vibrant financial hub that I was very familiar with, and by deduction, meeting a growing need in the marketplace.
But most importantly, Ethica’s internet site communicated authenticity, intellectual rigour, and a sincere desire to inspire its students to greater heights. It talked plainly but intelligently — the structure of the CIFE course was clearly outlined, including a powerful 25-minute video introducing answers to the basic question “Why Islamic Finance?” I was hooked — I must have listened to that video three times, with each play digesting both the technical content and the moral perspective that it shone a light on. It was enlightening.
I reached out via their “send a message” with a simple enquiry. Within 24 hours not only did I get a response, but the response was polite and courteous, committed to answering my many questions thoroughly, with no hard sell. It was refreshing and reassuring, given my recent experiences in obtaining industry-required professional qualifications.
I commenced the CIFE, taking advantage of down time when my two daughters, both under 5 at the time, were asleep. This was critically important for me — to be able to access the material 24/7, however many times I wanted or needed to, in the quiet of my home-based study. And need I did — I am no dunce, but I found that I re-visited the training videos and articles many times. I struggled with the Arabic words, the differences with western banking, and the moral perspective that constantly permeated.
Eventually the proverbial dirham dropped — I got it. It made sense to me, ie the Arabic words and their pronunciations, the Shariah concepts, the actual structures and processes of Islamic products, and what fell short of AAOIFI standards. It was an exciting time for me — I realized that there was a viable alternative to what I simply assumed was the only finance and banking model.
In particular, I enjoyed immensely the slow-talking of the video presenter and simple animation used to explain often complex concepts. I also read all the other training material, including the 700-page e-handbook. It was excellent resource material, one that I will always turn to if I want to clarify a term or read further on a concept. This free 700-page resource speaks volumes of Ethica’s genuine desire to inspire.
Ethica continues to be a guide for me, addressing technical questions that I may have (eg recently I enquired into Bitcoin and what the official view was — it was raised by other alumni and an official proclamation was made and communicated to us) and acting as a wise sounding board on general career queries, ideas and networking techniques. Suffice it to say, I am planning to challenge the ACIFE Financial Analysis next, enjoying the discount offered to CIFE graduates.
In summary, I fully and without hesitation recommend Ethica Institute of Islamic Finance. I have found the course to be both intellectually challenging and immensely rewarding, as well as inspirational. It has opened my eyes to an alternative model of finance and banking, one that I see a future in for my two daughters. And yes, I have every intention of exposing my children to Islamic Finance & Banking! It is about a legacy of ideas and knowledge of options — what we leave behind for the next generations, to effectively equip them to manage what they inherit from us.
by Katia Camps-Campins CIFE, Compliance Professional